April 27th, 2003


Title Idea -- Wickers of Welcome

Off on my creative writing exercise of the morning, again taking place in someone else's journal, which will be moved to here before posting, I hit a lovely turn of phrase...

Wickers of Welcome

When I eventually get around to my memiors, that ought to be its title. Faye, you know this sound. Think about Punc when you arrive...

A Chapter in That Proposed Book?

(Moved from a post in a friend's journal.)

Louise's first foal, born in the hay mow of the barn, who then crawled under the long door in a rain storm, through the stallion's pen, several feet thick in mud, either under the people door by the barn, or under the double gates in the middle of the fence connecting it to the yard, across the yard with the two broodmares waiting to foal, then under the electric wire without destroying it, and finally standing up in the little dab of driveway separating the farm entry from the road, going to the double gates there, and trying to suck on the chains that held them shut. Just inside, the two mares in waiting were frantically trying to mother him over the fence.

When my next barn check showed up a mare with NO foal, I looked at the 4" gap in the corner of the sliding door where evidently the stallion had tried to attend the birth, only to be stopped by the chain, and decided that had to be where the foal went. I turned on the yard light, but no foal, so I began shuffling through the mud without lifting up my boots, feeling for a body under the muck that was not visible in the rain. On one pass, I noticed the odd behavior of the two mares in the shadow of the cedar tree in the front yard right beside the gate. The boss had turned on the subordinate one and driven her away.

"I didn't think either of them were within a week of foaling; I'd better get them in, too," as I gave up my morbid search of the barn lot.

When I got Pandemonium Louis (who stood at Steve's until his death) into the front yard, Kamana ran off with him. I had a terrible time getting him away from her. Dawn wasn't near as much trouble until I was trying to get him through the gate into the stallion pen. She almost caused the escape of the stallion into the front yard, where he'd have been a real asset! Then the mud. Keeping him on his feet and moving was such a chore. I was exhausted by the time I got him to the lip of the people door. Getting him over the sill was nearly impossible.

Then, when Louise came up, she refused him. (Of course, by then, she 1) had no idea this was what she'd produced, 2) could smell at least Kamana on him...) So, at two am, the vet arrived, tranquilized her and stayed until 5 with me, helping me make sure he got to eat. We both made it to work the next day...I know at least I was none too shiney...

I'd hold the long rope on her, and she'd feed him. A neighbor fed him that way during the day, and by the next night, she'd relented. She never did totally accept and mother him well. He was Steve's colt, so when I took Raven west that summer, Louis went along. You probably remember the year we pulled in early in the morning instead of late at night, having stopped at a rest area 50 miles away for the night when we just couldn't go any further. I had Sarah W., her first trip west, or even out of Iowa, with me, so we'd toured the corn palace. The next day, we took Raven out and arranged his head so it lined up with the presidents, making the "fifth head". We put Raven and Louis in separate stud pens. Louis couldn't get enough attention. He played with the piece of wood floating in the big tank when we finally reached your place.

But before we got there, at the rest area that dawn, Sarah took Raven into the alfalfa field while she was still half asleep. He had on a halter with a defective cheek snap, and it caught on some alfalfa. As he ate, he slipped free of it, continuing to graze calmly nearby with Sarah blithely holding the rope end attached to an alfalfa plant. When I got the stall mucked out and Raven's grain placed, Louis watered, gave him the last of Chuck's grain, which he'd polished off, instead of going off feed as most newly weaned foals do, etc., I glanced over to see Raven, totally unencumbered, about 20 feet away from Sarah, who was dozing on her feet.

Cautioning her to stay still, as she WAS between him and the open highway (a highway patrolman once told me in all seriousness that they SHOOT animals that are out on the highway, as they are such a hazard to traffic,) I talked cheerfully to Raven, telling him breakfast was ready, walked up to him just as if he were in the home pasture, reached under his neck, grabbed a chunk of his mane from the far side, put my thumb on his cheek, and led him to the open trailer.

Louis, alone for the first time that trip, panicked and tried to turn around, banging against the side of the trailer and hollering his head off, as we three were ALL out of his sight. (Finally, he was acting like a newly weaned foal, but not over his uncaring mother, but his sire and foster-mom...) Sleepy people began to emerge from cars and campers.

As I neared the trailer door, Louis's frantic calls turned to wickers of welcome. Raven made a dive for the trailer door, breaking away and leaping smoothly in, plowing into the grain at once. I seem to remember George scoffing when I told that story, maybe just the look on his face, I can't remember clearly now, but when we did set out for Mt. Rushmore, I do remember deliberately taking Raven halterless and showing off a bit... knowing he'd repeat, and also knowing if he went elsewhere, it was several miles to a road, with a closed GATE baring the way... He did not disappoint, however. He's a good boy.

On Birth and Death

One of my friends posted a lovely, heart-rending poem about the death of a stray calico that had joined her family briefly. I did not read it until today, but it really resonates with me. So much that, although I intended to work on my novel this weekend, I again did not this morning.

Instead, I seem to be starting yet a THIRD one...the one I always thought I'd write first, and have been calling "My Horses Call Me 'Mommy'" in my head for years...

Yesterday, a neighbor and I were on the subject of rejected foals, skirting around the idea of pending death and its inevitability. She owns one of Debut's solid bay full sisters, and bred her last year, getting a filly which she raised very well, but they crossed her again (to a palomino QH, hoping to get one -- the mare being bay, it is unlikely, and they did not).

This one came two days ago in the rain and the mare is rejecting it. They get up every two hours to feed him, but it is not looking good. She came to me for help when the "horse vet" was out of town.

I could not come up with a thing that fit her situation... The mare and foal were moved to a shed and warmed, cared for, the mare allowed her "human" to milk her out with no apparent discomfort, but would try to savage the colt when he tried. For two days, they have been forcing her to feed him. Giving her any leeway at all, she tries to bite him and push him away. Once when they'd turned him and her both loose after he'd finished feeding, she dove at him and tried to bite him on the back. (Not a friendly little nip-- a huge horse bite designed to do damage.) We can't figure out a THING that makes sense when she could raise her first one fine and lovingly...

"Surely you've had trouble," she said. Image after image began to flash by... foal after foal. One of the neighbor's whose mare was in trouble while they were out of town. The people they had watching the place came up to get me when a maiden mare foaled early and wouldn't accept the foal. It ended up on a rug in my then brand new mobile home (back when I swore I'd have NO animals in the house this time), in the utility room over night. I fed it borrowed foal lack every two hours, keeping it alive until they could get home and the vet would be available. I'd had the trailer all of two days... Some stick-to-it-ness!

I told her about Louise's first foal and its early adventures. (Moved to a completely new post in MY journal, as it is way too long for a comment.)

At one point, we talked about Sweetie, whom she was surprised to see still alive. In fact, she lay as a dead dog, flat on her side, and had not roused when Wertha pulled in... As we were watching, I could not see her rib cage raise. We watched for the longest time before she took another breath. She asked about her food -- was she eating. "A little, so I feed her frequent enticing goodies to stimulate her appetite. It helps if the cats get there first, so she responds to 'competition'."

After she left, I spent the rest of the night reliving some of the troubles... Going down memory lane with death after death. It was five a.m. before I fell asleep.

Come Take a Walk With Me...

Jess brought over a Johnny Johnston photography book, and I was looking through it. The poem I just printed, and this one, uncredited, were from that source.

Come take a walk with me
And we shall see
The world each spring anew.

The first line really resonates with me... I used it as the title and beginning of each stanza of the lyrics to the farm video I did in the '80's.

Come take a Walk With Me
What glories we will see
If you will cooooome with me.

Brian P. the band director at Corydon that year, suewolf, then a reading teacher, probably the librarian, I think the coral music person, at any rate, several other teachers and I were in the library at a round table watching a movie with a very slanted world view masquerading as teacher in-service... required attendance, but attention not mandatory. We were being noisy (naughty -- grading papers was okay, but not out and out inattention that ATTRACTED ATTENTION) Three of us, Brian, Sue and I, started passing notes-- somehow poetry emerged. Now, Sue's a poet, Brian a composer always on the lookout for lyrics, etc. and a consummate musician. (Sadly for us, he stayed one year and moved on to a junior college, where his talents were probably much better-used. But what an intellectual loss to us left behind!)

I had been singing original songs into a tape recorder as I drove from Seymour, where I taught in the morning, to Corydon for the afternoon session, and one of them was "Come Take a Walk With Me".

All the songs were intended to accompany the farm video I was putting together, and illustrated various video segments already shot.

The Walk With Me piece had no verses. Brian thought we needed THREE, (choral songs evidently come in three verse/chorus format.) So, we "composed" more verses.

Come take a Walk With Me
What glories we will see
If you will cooooome with me.

Come take a walk with me
Up mountains tall and free
We'll scramble where big horns flee
And eagles fly far to see.

Come toke a walk with me
To isles in the deep blue sea;
Stroll 'neath a green canopy
Searching for abalone.

Come live your life with me
I plea on bended knee;
What wonder there will be
If you will cooooome with me.

Verse after verse got passed over to Brian, after discarding the rhyming lines ending in bologna, among others now mercifully passed from my memory.

Oh, did he ever react.
"No animals! No eagle! No goat!... GOATS? Now, that's attractive."

"Think dahl sheep -- you know, mountain goats."

Total outrage: A choir can't sing "Can of pee!" What are you thinking?

"Abalone? Isn't that another ANIMAL?"

"Well, the shells are pretty."

"May as well stick the picnicking on bologna back in there!"

"Bended KNEE? No way. Nobody, I mean NOBODY does THAT any more."

(and, yes, I can still recall that abominable movie!)